Intestinal bacteria on the toothbrush - how do they get there?

Aerosols not only spread coronaviruses in the air, but also intestinal bacteria in the bathroom. How this happens, and how we save our toothbrushes.

Toothbrushes are supposed to freshen our mouths and, most importantly, rid our teeth of destructive caries germs. But now we have to learn that toothbrushes themselves are veritable germ-hawks, transporting bacteria into our mouths. This is hardly surprising when you know that germs love moisture and food residues. But what Prof. Dirk Bockmühl from Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences found on toothbrushes amazes and disgusts us.

On behalf of the SWR program "Marktcheck," the microbiologist examined 37 toothbrushes in the laboratory. About a million germs are apparently found on the bristles as standard - but what he found is even more unpleasant than the sheer number.

Fecal germs were found on the toothbrushes
Bockmühl found fecal germs, i.e. intestinal bacteria, in the bristles of the toothbrushes. Especially for people with weakened immune systems, this is not entirely harmless, he said. "If I actually find too many fecal germs on the toothbrush, it can make me sick," says the microbiologist.

How do the gut bacteria get on the brush?
As with Corona, aerosols are to blame. That's because as soon as the toilet is flushed, fecal germs are distributed in tiny droplets throughout the room - including on the toothbrush.

You should not do this
Washing the brush out hot or cleaning it with mouthwash won't do any good, says the microbiologist. And those who reach for a protective cap even aggravate the problem. Because under the plastic cover the brush dries worse and the germs multiply even faster.

Why it's better to use two toothbrushes
According to Bockmühl, the only thing that really helps is to deprive the microorganisms of their basis of life, i.e. moisture. Therefore, always let the brushes dry well or, even better, use two toothbrushes alternately, because this prolongs the drying time of each brush. By the way, the "Medical Center" of New York University has been advising for some time: Close the toilet lid before flushing so that the aerosol cloud is not distributed in the room in the first place.

How often should I change my toothbrush?
You should change your toothbrush at least every three months. Anyone who has had an infection should replace it immediately afterwards. Otherwise, there is a risk of contracting the infection a second time due to the accumulated bacteria, says Bockmühl.

Aren't bamboo toothbrushes more hygienic?
No. Because although the antibacterial effect of bamboo is advertised, the germ load is no different from plastic toothbrushes. They are even more susceptible to mold because the bristles cannot be welded into the brush head. This creates cavities in which mold can form more easily. Therefore, careful drying is particularly important with wooden and bamboo toothbrushes.


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